Gestalt Theory and Integration

Gestalt Theory and integration involve several key principles; Closure, Contiguity, Similarity, Proximity, and Experience.


The concept of closure is the minds tendency to see wholes even if the whole is not present. Not all graphics created for learning need the whole parts shown….only those necessary to increase learning efficiency and reduce cognitive load. A great video overviewing the “Law of Closure” below.

This picture is a great example of closure in that your mind naturally puts a line to make this look like a Panda Bear.
Panda Bear demonstrating Gestalt Principle of Closure


The image below helps me remember contiguity as a principle. Our minds seek to follow paths even if they are broken. That said, simple shapes, such as brackets around words, or a simple line with a swoosh can create some visual separation and interest in graphics that draws the eyes of the learner to the necessary areas of a graphic or piece of learning material. Where do your eyes go when you see the image below?

Theory of Contiguity in action


The theory of similarity is the minds need to seek a pattern. Creating instructional websites or slides have a need for a consistent design to help reduce cognitive load and increase learning efficiencies. The theory also suggests that when things are designed with the same colors, textures, or other attributes that they will seem to belong together. In other words, when creating learning materials for optimal delivery, ensure consistency among similar learning units by using similar graphics, layout, and navigation. The video below shows the theory of similarity applied to photography. I think it is a great way to help solidify this theory applied to another concept.


Because the mind groups elements based on where they are, proximity is an important component of consideration when creating learning environments for students. The video below outlines some great examples of effective uses of proximity in action.

Prior Knowledge as a Gestalt Principle

Learners understanding of graphic usage will highly depend upon cultural and other prior educational experiences. When designing instructional interfaces with icons it is important to explain them to the end user when noone is available. A learners prior knowledge is one of the single most important factors to consider when designing instruction intended for distance-based delivery. Just keep in mind that different cultures interpret colors, icons, and other symbols very differently. The “Five Hat Racks” video touches on considerations for how users will interact with graphical information.

Reference – Lohr, L. (2008). Creating graphics for learning and performance (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education ISBN:0-­‐13-­‐219158-­‐X

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